Walden's Paths

About the Name

From July 4, 1845 to September 6, 1847, Henry David Thoreau lived in a 10' by 15' cabin he himself built at Walden Pond, outside of Concord, Massachusetts. It was partly to escape the 19th century ways that Thoreau isolated himself, to go his own way.

[sketch of Thoreau]

Thoreau, in writing about why he left Walden, said:

"I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one. It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. I had not lived there a week before my feet wore a path from my door to the pondside; and though it is five or six years years since I trod it, it is still quite distinct. It is true, I fear, that others may have fallen into it, and so helped to keep it open. The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity! I did not wish to take a cabin passage, but rather to go before the mast and on the deck of the world, for there I could best see the moonlight amid the mountains. I do not wish to go below now."

from the Conclusion to Walden; or Life in the Woods

Thus, Thoreau saw Walden as a chance to escape the premade paths defined for him by 19th century society. In the end, he found he had created his own paths and left to experience other paths as well.

Hypertext is based on a notion that Thoreau might have liked, the notion that people need to be able to get to information following their own path. In smaller hypertexts, this can work quite well. But when we look at the unstructured nature of the World Wide Web, we recognize that it is difficult for students to use this resource and there is a need for trailblazers, people to organize and contextualize information so it can be more widely understood. Thus, as Thoreau found paths an inevitable fact in his life in the woods, so we find paths a good starting point for those just beginning to make use of today's new information sources.

Further Information

Go to the Walden's Paths Home Page

More information on Henry David Thoreau

CSDL Comments to walden@csdl.tamu.edu
Last modified on: November 13, 2002